Helping Shop Owners grow into the successful entrepreneurs they imagine themselves to be.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Have You Murdered Your Traditions Yet?

Have You Murdered Your Traditions Yet?


Eric M. Twiggs

“Murder the traditions that aren’t serving you” Sun Tzu 

I’m a creature of habit.  When traveling, I prefer to stay at the same national hotel chain no matter where I go.  This particular establishment is consistent, convenient, and offers a complimentary breakfast.

After checking in, my process for getting to the room follows a certain routine: I always ask the desk clerk for a wake-up call, put my bags on the rolling cart, and slide my key into the room door.   There’s one habit I have that drives my wife crazy:  I keep the room keys after I check out of the hotel!   

While traveling in late May, I decided to conduct an experiment.  Since I was staying at the same chain, I took the key I kept from my March travels and attempted to use it in May at the new location.

As always, I asked for the wake-up call, put the bags on the cart, and walked up to my door.  When I slid the key, the red light came on!  I continued to slide the key like I always did in the past, with no success.   And then it hit me:  What you’ve always done, doesn’t always work!

You may be thinking “Eric, attempting to enter a new door with an old key is crazy!”  I would argue that expecting to attract a successful advisor by running an unsuccessful ad, is just as insane.

If nothing changes, both of us will end up on the wrong side of the closed door!   The key is to murder your traditions that aren’t serving you.    Don’t check out on me before I will be reveal two tools to help you to stop doing what isn’t working. 

The Rule of FIVE

In a previous blog titled How to get out of your box, I introduced you to the idea of “The rule of five.”  Here's the backstory that inspired me to pursue this principle: Last year, a shop owner told me he was doing everything possible to find a technician. 

I asked him to explain what he did the previous week to find help.  I sat on the edge of my seat expecting a long action list, only to hear: “Eric, I ran an ad!”  Several weeks later  I found the rule of five, after reading an article written by Jack Canfield.   

Here's how it works: For any major goal, you must do five different things in a week to accomplish it.  This principle is powerful because it forces you to try things you wouldn’t normally consider.  For example, If I asked you to come up with five strategies to improve your sales, your first thought may be to run an oil change special.

It’s comfortable for you because you’ve done it before. Most people run out of ideas after their third input. This is where things get uncomfortable, and the feeling of discomfort is what inspires you to think differently.   By the time you get to your fifth idea, you would consider mailing socks to a potential fleet customer with a note promising to provide service that knocks their socks off!

If not for the rule of five, you would run the same oil change special, that didn’t work the last time!  If you’re serious about murdering your traditions, commit to doing five different things per week to achieve your goal! 

Start/Stop/ Keep

Dynamic leadership is all about finding different ways to achieve the same goal.  The “start/stop/keep” technique is a strategic thinking tool, that can be a game changer for you.

On a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, have a meeting with your leadership team and ask the following questions: 1.  What new activities or strategies should we start doing? 2. What do we need to stop doing, because it’s not serving us?  3. What’s working well that we should keep doing?

 An example of this in action would be as follows: “We need to start networking with our good employees and customers to find people.   We need to stop running the hiring ads in the local newspaper that haven’t produced any candidates. We need to keep advertising on social media to attract the passive job seeker.” 

This exercise works best when done with your co-owner, service manager, & lead technician.  You will get to the answers faster by focusing on the leaders responsible for driving results in your key areas. 

The answers must be specific and actionable.  An example of a start statement to avoid would be: “We will start trying to make an effort to do better!”

For additional information on how to make this tool work, I recommend reading the book: Scaling Up, by Vern Harnish.


Implementing the rule of five, and executing the start/stop/keep meeting method, will help you to murder those traditions that aren’t serving you.   I challenge you to commit to the new key, and to dispose of the one that only opens the old door!  Have you murdered your traditions yet?


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  PS. Tired of seeing the flashing red light on your door?   I have a start/stop/keep worksheet you can use to get on the right side of the door.  Email  and I will send it.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What Are You Building?

What Are You Building?


Eric M. Twiggs

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." - Bruce Lee

During my days as a district manager, I had the opportunity to witness the building of several new locations.  The builders would arrive on site, and we would review the drawings.  I could see how many bays we would have, the layout of the customer waiting area, and total facility square footage.  As I observed, I noticed an interesting trend. The actual building process began the same way every time.

They never started with the exterior lighting.  They didn’t begin by building the roof. They didn’t list plumbing as the priority.   The building process always began by establishing the foundation. I often wondered why they began this way. 

And then it hit me:  You can’t expect to have a strong location, if it’s built on a weak foundation.  

You may be thinking: “Nice story Eric, but I don’t need a foundation. What I need is new customers!”  OK, I get it.  Starting with the foundation isn’t as sexy as the latest car count changing “silver bullet.”

I challenge you to consider the following trend:  During the tough times, those who cry the most about low car count, are those with the least amount of focus on their foundation.   Meanwhile, the owners who’ve built the right way, are experiencing success even though it’s an election year and all the vendors say it’s slow! 

So what foundational focus items should you consider?  Stay with me because I’m building towards the answer.


While conducting research for his book Good To Great, Jim Collins examined the performance of over fourteen hundred companies over a forty year time span and found eleven that produced great results on a consistent basis.  The CEO’s of these organizations had one trait in common: They began the building process by focusing on the people.

Collins uses the “the bus” metaphor to describe their step by step process.  Their first priority was getting the right people on the bus.  Next they focused on getting the wrong people off the bus. Lastly they made sure the right people were sitting in the right seats.  Great leaders don’t focus on where “the bus” is going, until they address getting the right people on it and in the right seats. 

Take a hard look at your service writers, technicians, and support staff.  If you could turn back the hands of time, would you enthusiastically rehire everyone based on what you know today?  If you answered “no” for 50% or more of your staff, it’s an indication of a fragile foundation. 


So once you get the right people in the right seats and get rid of the wrong ones, your foundation is set right? Wrong!   It’s hard to drive your shop forward if the right people don’t know what to do.  This is why having written processes is a critical part of your foundation. 

Your processes are solid if you have the following three items in place:  1. An updated employee handbook with detailed policies.  2. Current job descriptions for every position. 3. Written operating procedures for every task.   

The more routines you have in writing, the less dependent the business will be on your presence.  Your routines will set you free.

The key is to work on finding the right people while you’re establishing the right processes.  Don’t make the mistake of allowing “perfect” to become the enemy of “progress.”  Getting the right people in each key position takes time.

If you delay your search until you’ve perfected your processes, you won’t be prepared if you lose a current employee unexpectedly, or if you suddenly become unavailable.  As mentioned in a previous blog, betting that you’ll always be available is much riskier than recruiting for your replacement.


As anyone with beachfront property will tell you, the best time to establish a strong foundation, is BEFORE the storm comes.  Building your business with strong people and processes will allow you to prosper while your competitors and vendors complain about the economic storms.  What are you building? 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  I have a new list of competency based interview questions to help you get the right people on your bus.  Email  and I will send them to you. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Are You “The Greatest" Motivator?

Are You “The Greatest" Motivator?


Eric M. Twiggs

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”   Mohammed Ali

Recently we’ve experienced the loss of boxing legend Mohammed Ali.  It’s been said that he was “the greatest”.   As I watched the different accounts of his life, I wondered what was it about him that made people feel this way?  After all, there have been other fighters who have won more fights.  

There have been boxers who have retired with fewer losses. There have been others who have scored more knockouts.  The answer to my question was revealed as I watched the highlights of his 1964 fight against Sonny Liston.

Sonny Liston was the defending heavyweight champion and the most intimidating fighter of his day.  So much so that of the forty-six sports writers who were surveyed before the fight, forty-three picked Liston to win!  In spite of the overwhelming odds, Ali shocked the world by delivering a knockout victory! 

At the end of the fight, while being interviewed by a reporter Ali uttered four words that would forever change the landscape of boxing: “I am The Greatest!”

We say he’s the greatest because HE said it first.  When he first said it, there wasn’t any evidence to support his claim.  In 1964 he was an unproven twenty-two-year-old at the beginning of his career.   And then it hit me: The greatest motivators have the unique ability to say it BEFORE they see it.  Ali said this to motivate himself. 

Running a shop today is like fighting Sonny Liston, because It’s an intimidating task and your competition is looking to knock you out.  What you say to yourself and your team can make the difference between winning and losing.   So how can you leverage the principle of saying it before you see it?  Stay with me because I’m in your corner.

Start With Yourself

Imagine watching a boxing match where after the opening bell sounds, the fighter starts punching himself!  It sounds crazy, but I would argue that it’s just as insane to say things to and about yourself that don’t line up with your goals.

Every week I have a conversation with a client who makes one of the following statements: “I can’t charge what the matrix says to charge”; “You can’t find and hire good people in my area”; “I can’t afford to hire my replacement in the business”; When you make one of these statements, you lose the fight before your competition even takes a swing! 

As mentioned in the opening Ali quote, whatever you repeatedly say becomes a belief, and these beliefs are what makes things happen.  You will subconsciously look for evidence to support whatever you say.  For example, if you say “you can’t charge according to the matrix,” you will use the first price objection you get as confirmation that you were right, while ignoring the other instances where the customer approved the estimates.  The problem isn’t in the market, it’s in the mirror.

Would your business improve if you subconsciously looked for evidence to support a positive affirmation?  You would look for ways to make the matrix work, find good people, and to replace yourself in the shop.  Since you tend to get what you expect, making positive statements BEFORE you see the outcome, would motivate you to keep pressing forward.

Stop Harping On Weaknesses

In his book Bringing Out The Best In People, Aubrey Daniels introduces the idea of discretionary effort.  He defines it as the level of effort that’s not required, but could be given by employees if they were motivated to do so.    He makes mention of a workplace study which concluded that only 23% of employees are performing at full capacity.

Based on this math, if you have ten employees at your shop, only two are going above and beyond the minimum requirements!  He goes on to say that positive reinforcement is what motivates employees to give discretionary effort.

The key is to build on people’s strengths instead of harping on their weaknesses.  Since people tend to rise to the level of your expectations, your employees will do more of what you harp on.  If the only thing you talk to your tech about, is how he isn’t doing the courtesy checks, guess what you’ll continue to get?  It’s unlikely that he will feel motivated go above and beyond for you.  Applying what I refer to as “The three to one strategy” can help you to stop harping on weaknesses.

Here's how it works: For every corrective comment you make, provide three positive statements affirming what the employee does well.  I challenge you to try it for one week and see if you notice a difference in performance.  If you find yourself struggling to come up with three positives for one of your people, it’s a sign you’ve made a bad hire.   I’ve addressed the solution to this in a previous blog.


If you start with yourself and stop harping on weaknesses, you can become the champion of your market.  If you take on the challenge of becoming “the greatest” motivator, you will deliver a knockout blow to your competition.


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  I have a shop meeting template to help you deliver a meeting in such a way, that it will inspire your people to give discretionary effort.   Email and I will send it to you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Are You Focused On Your Sweet Spot?

Are You Focused On Your Sweet Spot?


Eric M. Twiggs

To compete on a world class level, you need to accentuate your strengths. Focus on the things you're good at and let someone else do the rest.”  Robert Herjavec

Watching the second game of the NBA Finals on Sunday, reminded me of an interview that was done with basketball coaching legend John Wooden.   Coach Wooden is considered to be the greatest coach of all time in any sport.  His UCLA Bruin teams won ten national championships in twelve years and he was named national coach of the year six times. 

Typically, when a player goes up in levels of competition, his shooting percentage goes down.  For example, if someone makes 50% of his shots at the high school level, he evolves into a 45% shooter in college.  The combination of higher stakes and better defenders tends to lower his success rate.  This however was not the case when it came to the players Wooden coached.

On average, his people shot a higher percentage with him at the college level than they did in high school!  How was he able to buck the trend?  The answer was revealed in the interview.

In his book The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell recalls the interview he conducted with the legendary coach.   Wooden mentioned that many of his players were average shooters when they entered the program.

He knew each of them had a specific spot on the floor where they shot the best, and designed plays for them accordingly.   Anyone who shot outside of their spot on the floor earned a seat next to him on the bench!   In other words, he focused on their sweet spot.

You have earned your seat next to me on the bench if you can relate to any of the following scenarios:

  • You’re trying to convert your diagnostic technician, who doesn’t get along with anyone, into your next service writer. 
  • You can’t understand why your bookkeeper, who doesn’t like people, isn’t following through with making follow up calls.
  • You still have a flip phone, but have designated yourself as “the social media guru” for your shop!

Read on and you will learn two strategies to help you focus on the sweet spot, so that you get yourself back in the game.   

Bird Based Hiring

According to research conducted by Dr. Gary Couture, everyone fits into one of four personality types named after the following birds: Eagle, Peacock, Owl, and Dove.    The eagle is driven, thrives on confrontation, and focuses more on results than relationships.  The peacock is people oriented, assertive, and lacks concern for the details.

The owl is analytical, detail oriented, and prefers projects over people.  The dove is sensitive, caring, and wants to avoid confrontation whenever possible.  Bird based hiring will allow you to place people in their sweet spot.

Hiring an owl to be your service writer would be like coach Wooden asking his best inside player to be an outside shooter. On the other hand, hiring the peacock as your service writer would put him in his sweet spot, since peacocks tend to be people oriented. 

A dove may not be the best fit for the general manager role.  Their high levels of sensitivity would make it hard to maintain accountability. The eagle would be the better choice because they have an easier time with making unpopular decisions, as a result of their desire to win at all costs. 

This is why I recommend having all hiring prospects take the wonderlic personality test beforehand. Matching the bird with the role, will help you fly towards your goal. 

Blind Spot Awareness

If reading this has brought you to the realization that you’re in the wrong role, don’t panic.   A key to your success is becoming aware of your shortcomings. The good news is that once you become aware of your blind spots, you can make the necessary adjustments.

If you are an “owl” shop owner, who is writing service, replacing yourself with a peacock will free you up to focus on the analysis you enjoy.   If you’re a dove, who’s currently in the general manager role, having an eagle as your second in command, can give you more time to operate in your sweet spot of customer service management. 

 Knowing your weaknesses also gives you the opportunity to adjust your behavior to suit the requirements of the role.  If behaving outside of your normal tendencies doesn’t work for you, then finding a role that’s a natural fit is the solution. 

Just taking the personality profile test, doesn’t make you aware of your blind spots.  Reviewing the results and working through the next steps is critical and will bring you to the following fork in the road:  Either change your behaviors or find a role that’s in tune with your natural sweet spot. 


So there you have it.    If you want to get better as you go to the next level, finding your sweet spot is the key.   Bird based hiring and blind spot awareness will give you the best shot!  Are you focused on your sweet spot?

Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  Having trouble finding your sweet spot?  Email and I will send you my four birds checklist.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How To Overcome The Mountaintop Mindset

How To Overcome The Mountaintop Mindset


Eric M. Twiggs

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

Several years ago, I was speaking with a shop owner named “Mary” who was shorthanded on technicians.  I gave her the following advice:  “you should do a tool raffle where your vendor raffle’s off a $250 gift card on your behalf, to the tech’s in your area. 

You could then network with these candidates and have them refer you people they know of who are looking for a new shop.”  “OK, I’ll keep that in mind,” said Mary with a disinterested tone.  When we spoke the following week, she hadn’t implemented my suggestion.

Three weeks later, Mary was back at her shop after attending her first 20 group meeting.  I could tell that she was re-energized and was curious to find out what happened.  “What new ideas were discussed at your meetings?” I asked. “Eric, we talked about this great idea of doing a tool raffle with the technicians in the area.  I plan to make this happen today!” 

Shaking my head in disgust, I sarcastically repliedGreat idea Mary, never heard that one before!”  Why did her opinion of the tool raffle idea suddenly change?  It’s because Mary had what I call a “mountaintop mindset.”

It's human nature to place a higher value on external ideas.  In the movies for example, whenever the lead character is seeking wisdom, he embarks on a journey to find the guru who resides at the “top of the mountain.” 

His remote location adds to his mystique and makes the advice appear more valuable.  If the same guidance came from the guy next door, the main character would reject it.    In other words, someone with a mountaintop mindset views external ideas as coming from “on high” while discounting those from a local source. 

Has your writer ever ignored your advice, then suddenly had “an epiphany” after hearing Randy Somers say the same thing in service writer class?  You’ve been advising them to exit schedule for months, but after hearing Randy, it’s become the greatest idea since the invention of the internet! 

This is an example of the mountaintop mindset at work.  So what can you do to move beyond this mentality?  Keep reading and you will learn two keys to overcoming the mountain top mindset. 


In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,  Robert Cialdini concludes that people have an innate desire to stay consistent with the verbal commitments they make.  He proves this point by telling the story of restaurant that was having a problem with appointment no- shows.

The hostess would take the customers reservation over the phone and then tell them to call first before canceling.   Since just telling people to call wasn’t working, the owner changed his approach.  Instead, he had the hostess asked for agreement by saying: “If you have to cancel this reservation, do you agree to call within twenty four hours to let us know?” 

This minor shift resulted in the number of no-shows decreasing by 30% because of the patrons desire to stay consistent with what they said they would do. 

Confirming agreement with your employee can help to overcome the mountaintop mindset.  If your writer says exit scheduling is the right thing to do, he will be more likely to follow through than if you tell him to do it without asking for his verbal agreement.   He will be less likely to prefer advice from “on high.”


Accountability will help your people understand the difference between a discussion and a directive.  A discussion is when you’re openly brainstorming ideas, but a directive is when you expect your employee to implement the idea at a specific time. 

As mentioned in a previous blog, you don’t have to yell and scream to get your point across.  It’s all in the questions you ask. 

For example, failing to ask the right questions may leave your technician with the felling that he experienced a discussion about courtesy checks even though your intention was to give him a directive to comply. 

My favorite accountability questions are those requesting a timeline.  Asking the technician when he will begin to fill out the forms correctly, sends the message that you expect him to follow through.    If he believes you only had a discussion, the idea may not sink in until he hears it from an external source.   


The previously mentioned shop owner named Mary implemented the tool raffle idea and it resulted in her hiring two technicians and having fourteen others in her Rolodex.  If I had asked for her verbal agreement, and then held her accountable by insisting on a timeline, she would have experienced success sooner. 

You can experience success at your shop if you embrace these two keys as well.  If your employees verbally agree, and are then held accountable, you will overcome the mountaintop mindset. 


Eric M. Twiggs
The Accountability Coach

PS.  I have seven agreement and accountability questions to help you overcome the mountaintop mindset.    Email and I will send them.